Expressive scales

Dear Guests,

Welcome to Oboe Brilliance blogs -  specifically for but not limited to oboe teachers and students, These coaching lessons are all about cultivating a balance of technically skilled and emotionally connected oboe artists. My aim is to help people enjoy solo etc. oboe playing for life in such a way that is personally and socially beneficial.

My philosophy is that people who cultivate artistic skill in a way that is both connected with their heart and a form of compassionate self expression are healthier - emotionally, mentally, physically and therefor help support a healthier society. I believe it is entirely possible to do this within the art of oboe playing! My exercises and music while created for oboists, can be applied to all musicians.

Some people believe that people either "have it" or don't have "it" when it comes to being musically expressive. While I do understand that some people may be more naturally inclined and more adept than others - I believe and have perceived time and again, that emotionally connected, musical expression CAN in fact be taught, cultivated and developed over time. I've worked on "hopeless" cases - young, old, damaged, completely inexperienced - and I assure you, as long as a person can feel sorrow or joy in his/her heart, the skill of expressing emotion with sound can be learned.

I believe it is essential to have a way to know, feel, work out, express and I dare say FLOURISH emotionally in honor and celebration of being a human being. Therefor I believe it is the duty of elders to teach the young HEALTHY conscious forms of artistry.

OK - here is this week's exercise:

1) Select a scale and imagine yourself playing it as best you can.
2) Now - think of 3 contrasting emotions to express while playing the scale and secretly pick one and play the scale as best you can to express that 1 of the 3 choices. (I call this exercise: "Pick one of the following three" Use of dynamics, rhythm, articulation, tone color etc. can be used as desired - but the scale must be in order and in tune!

If you are a teacher, give your student 3 choices and tell him/her to keep their choice secret - but to play the scale with their choice of expression. After they play the scale tell them what you heard. HOWEVER - sometimes it isn't obvious - or if you aren't certain - then just think aloud....

For example you could say, "Well, I could make an argument for choice 1 because I heard x,y,z but I think it could also be choice 2 because......... - hmmmm, help me here - "please tell me about what you were imagining"....or "Please tell me about your thinking in the creative process."

Also, it's important to establish trust and credibility with students - if you don't know or it's too much of a guess - I suggest then, to just admit it - say that you're not sure and you don't want to guess. Often I've heard a student say things like "ALL 3 ha ha !!!!" - or well...."first I was thinking this,.... then I changed it to the other.."..or they'll say, "I was trying to do this one, but I couldn't get it to sound like it...."

OK, so when that's the case - talk about how to make it sound like their choice....then have them do it over again! Give the student another chance - repeat as you feel is beneficial and the best use of time....or hit reset with new choices as you deep appropriate...

One variation on this exercise is to play the scale the way a certain character would play it. It helps to know your student - What does he/she like to read? Fiction, history, religion? Characters could be an animal or a Greek god or goddess....the more dramatic the better for beginners.

I've found that some students make everything sound the same. It could be a rhythmic pattern used as a crutch or everything is mono dynamic. If that's the case, use their "box" as your own private book mark - and work toward expanding the students "tool box". Have patience and courage! 

True story: One of my two most artistically shut down students of all time was a retired priest. He struggled to remember basic things - such as how to finger notes and wasn't expressive. He tried and tried and just wasn't getting anywhere. His impatience was intense. I've found the elderly have their own set of challenges as they feel the pressure of time running out. I feared his brain was toast. Fortunately he was stubborn! Long story short - in a few months he began to retain fingerings and recall scales, but he was so frustrated at not being able to express himself musically. So - as soon as he was ready, I gave him a hymn he had known all his life (music and memory are linked) and asked him to play it as if one of the following 3 (contrasting!) Biblical characters would sound, if they sang it. Yes, I was still afraid I would guess wrong - but - it was obvious. I didn't even have to guess. (PHEW!) We were delighted. 

This was helpful in developing his artisticself esteem and motivation. Using patience, the imagination and what a student truly loves is always the best way (that I've found) to help open the heart and the ability to express real feeling artistically. Also - it is really helpful for shy or fearful students to pretend to express someone or something else until - he/she is ready to replace the imagined heart with their own awareness or recall.


Perform repertoire or an etude - as if a character of your choice was playing the music. What did you do and hear?

Best wishes for a good week and enjoy your oboe playing/teaching.
Musically yours,

SKYPE coaching to study playing either the music I've composed or my coaching methods is possible by appointment: or
Thank you.